Each one of us is a unique individual. This is incontrovertibly true and totally misleading. We are the sum of our genetics, our environment, and our experiences. Our genetics give us predispositions to certain behaviours and attitudes.

More recently we have discovered that our environment and experiences can “switch on or off“ some of our genes, so even those predispositions can be altered by our environment and experiences.

Our environment is the “concrete” world outside of the filters of our own brain and experience. It is the air we breathe, the building we live in, the water we drink. The food we eat is a slightly different kettle of fish (if you like that kind of thing) we have more control over what we eat than the air we breathe. So it tends to be more influenced by our experiences and expectations than many aspects of our environment.

Our experiences are different even when we are twins in the same family. Timing, mood, other people’s expectations and attitudes all lead to different experiences of the same event. These experiences all help form who we are. It’s easy to look at these issues as being the only factors in making us each who we are. They are important, but we need to look at the wider scale as well.

There are biases out there in the wide world, such biases put us under a systematic (but often conflicting) pressure that shapes our experience in different ways to the micro experiences of home and family (though these external pressures are often also found at home and everywhere else).

When I was young there were two conflicting messages that I could not resolve. First was that I should be a “good girl”, do as I was told, look after other people, put men first, expect to always come second in every relationship and situation. The second was that I should always strive to do my best, be the best, never let anyone look down on me or talk down to me.

Both these messages came from wider society and from within my family. It was difficult to know when which was the most appropriate. I felt I could never relax and just be myself. Now if I found that difficult, how much more difficult must it be when you are on the receiving end of racism?

But part of what is going wrong with society at the moment is that there are so many conflicting messages, most of them being negative and unhealthy, that very few people feel comfortable in their own culture. Some people couldn’t even tell you what their own culture is.

This is not a criticism of immigration or emigration. It is a criticism of the way that we are encouraged to focus on differences and not similarities between us and other people. Instead of revelling in the richness and diversity of our cultural overlaps and interlinks, people feel insecure because they have been told time and time again that everything is “us versus them”, everyone else is a potential threat.

We are humans trying to live together, it is not helpful or healthy to constantly focus of differences. There should be no war of the sexes, no racial division, no separating because of class or creed. We really are all in this together, because there is only one world and there is no planet B.

This divide and conquer is a repeating cycle. It is a cycle of stupidity. It is a cycle we need to get off of.


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